Geostationary Trace Gases and Aerosol Sensor Optimization Instrument

crew membersin GEO-TASO aircraft

Tom Delker (left) and Jeremy Craner (right), researchers from Ball Aerospace, along with NASA Langley's Les Kagey (center). The team is installing the airborne (GEO-TASO) instrument on the NASA HU-25C aircraft. GEO-TASO is a test bed for the Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) instrument. Image Credit: NASA/David C. Bowman


The Colorado Air Pollution Monitoring Campaign

The Colorado Air Pollution Monitoring Campaign along the Denver Front Range tracked the transport of pollution by identifying human and natural sources of aerosols and other ozone precursors.

Ball Aerospace participated in the July 2014 airborne field campaign in collaboration with NASA, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the National Science Foundation and the State of Colorado.

The Colorado study area along the Denver Front Range contains a diverse mixture of air pollution sources that include transportation, power generation, oil and gas extraction, agriculture, natural vegetation and episodic wildfires. Current Front Range sampling stations can only measure air quality in a localized region. The broader campaign collected and combined data from multiple aircraft and ground-based and mobile instruments. It also provided air quality measurements over an extensive area and at different air and ground altitudes.

Ball flew an instrument known as GEO-TASO, (Geostationary Trace Gases and Aerosol Sensor Optimization), an aircraft-mounted hyperspectral sensor that measures atmospheric gasses. The GEO-TASO instrument flew on a retrofitted HU-25 Falcon Jet which has the highest altitude and fastest airspeed of the four aircraft that participated in the campaign.

The other three planes supported NASA’s Deriving Information on Surface Conditions from Column and Vertically-Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality (DISCOVER-AQ) and NCAR’s Front Range Air Pollution and Photochemistry Experiment (FRAPPÉ) campaigns.

NASA DISCOVER-AQ flew a P-3B Orion and NCAR/FRAPPE flew a C-130 Hercules, both slow, low-flying aircraft that flew zig-zag and spiral patterns across the Front Range providing profiles of the atmosphere from 1,000 to 20,000 feet mean sea level (MSL). DISCOVER-AQ also includes a B-200 King Air, which collected aerosol and trace-gas measurements from an intermediate altitude at 28,000 feet MSL.

Our Role
NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO) awarded two Instrument Incubator Program (IIP) contracts to Ball Aerospace to support Geostationary Coastal and Air Pollution Events (GEO-CAPE), an Earth Science Decadal Survey mission. GEO-TASO was developed under one of these IIP’s and addresses the atmospheric portion of the GEO-CAPE mission.

The GEO-CAPE program has provided funding for the current flight campaign to demonstrate Earth science measurements similar to the future Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution, or TEMPO mission. GEO-TASO is a precursor to the Earth Venture Instrument (EV-I) that Ball is currently developing for TEMPO. TEMPO is expected to launch in 2017 and will perform daytime air quality measurements over the continental U.S. from a geostationary orbit, with the ultimate goal of obtaining reliable air quality measurements of the lower atmosphere from space.

Quick Facts
The Front Range campaign dates ran from July 16 through August 16, 2014

GEO-TASO is an Earth science nadir-viewing Ultra-Violet/Visible light spectrometer:

  • Measures trace gasses, such as ozone, formaldehyde, clouds and small atmospheric particles called aerosols
  • Is mounted onboard the NASA HU-25C Falcon aircraft
  • Flies over urban and rural areas to measure air quality
  • Uses a de-polarizer developed by Ball Aerospace and NASA that improves data quality
  • Flies approximately twice a day, in clear sky conditions for 3 hour segments
  • Campaign total of 59 flight hours
  • Planned air quality map of Denver Front Range covers 115 km north-south stretch, from Fort Collins to E-470 south of Denver, at an altitude of 37,000 feet MSL
  • Flies over freeway interstates, power plants, drilling and agricultural sites

Serves as a risk reduction demonstration for TEMPO algorithm development


If you’re interested in learning more about GEO-TASO’s previous campaigns, click here

If you’re interested in learning more about NASA’s DISCOVER-AQ mission, click here.
If you’re interested in learning more about NCAR’s FRAPPÉ campaign, click here.





Colo Air pollution campaign map

Colorado Air Pollution Monitoring Front Range Campaign Map

Jeremy Craner at controls

Ball's Jeremy Craner at the GEO-TASO console in the HU-25C Falcon aircraft.





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